Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hard on the Back, Good for the Soul

This month I am staying in my pajamas until noon in a different time zone. We were planning to spend Christmas with our kids in Utah, but I ended up flying out several weeks early to help my daughter-in-law who broke her foot. I have been sharing a room and a blow-up mattress with an almost-three-year-old.

I am here to help with housework and keep the little one entertained and occupied so that her mother can stay off her foot. Little Lucy and I have been making cookies, wrapping Christmas presents, and today we made snow angels, something I haven't done for at least a couple of decades. I decided that making snow angels is hard on the back but good for the soul. That's my pink ski jacket that I promised Thom I would take to the Deseret Industries this trip. He says it looks like something from the 1980s. Duh! It was the 1980s when I moved to Florida, and then to Hawaii. It is hard to wear out a jacket you wear one week every year or two. I bought Lucy some pink "snowman pants" so we would look styling out making snow angels in the front yard. Would someone local please tell me what kind of ski jackets are in so I can pick up something that doesn't embarrass my husband?

I spent this past weekend with Becky and Josh and little Ellie. I think Ellie still remembers me from her recent visit to Hawaii. She has taken her first few steps. Becky and I attempted to put together the bookcase Santa and Grandma are giving to Ellie, but after all our hard work, we realized that what we thought was the front was the back, which meant that all the shelves were in backwards. At that point, we decided to let Josh take it from there, giving him the opportunity to showcase his superior skills and fix what we started. I was going to impress my son-in-law with my assembly skills, but perhaps I have some other talent with which I can dazzle him. My motto in this area is "If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly."

I let son Scott take me to see The Dark Knight. He has seen it fifteen or so times, and I've now seen it once, which was enough. I don't really want to spent too much time inside the mind of a psychopath. Being inside my own head is enough of a challenge for me. We had a good time over a couple of gourmet burgers pre-movie, however. I told him I was going to stand up at the end of the movie and ask if there were any single girls there who had seen the movie multiple times on purpose and make short work of their courtship, but he continues to believe this mate selection stuff is his responsibility, so I will back off. Spending time with my son is worth sitting through a movie that is somewhat far-removed from my taste.

My husband flies in on the 23rd. We will miss being together on December 21st, our eighth anniversary. I am shipping off a stuffed dog that sings and dances to Elvis's rendition of Blue Christmas to remind him how much I miss him. It should arrive in Seattle about the same time he does.

On December 31, stepson Shawn and fiancee Rachel will be married in the Logan Temple. They will have a party day as an anniversary. The reception will be the day before, something that I think makes sense anyway. That way after the exhausting day of pulling together the reception, they part ways, our boys have a bachelor party-lite for their brother, and then the next day they get married, have a luncheon, and they are home free while they still have some energy and check into the hotel at 2:00 p.m. instead of 2:00 a.m. I think it is an idea whose time has come.

I think little Lucy is asleep now, so I can go join her before she hogs all the warm blankets.

Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Hawaiian Style

This week we celebrated our little granddaughter's first birthday with a luau. This is a four generation picture of me, stepdaughter Becky and granddaughter Ellie (sorry, no steps for the grandbabies) and Cabbage Patch Baby Eugenia Aurelia. I told Becky that since I'd never gotten to do the mother-daughter dress-alike thing, she had to humor me.

Before they arrived, I had done some "Hawaiian graffitti" writing a message with coral on the black lava, and I was excited to take Becky and Josh and Ellie to see it. I had strategically located the message near the airport, so it would be easy to show them. When I located it, someone had dismantled our writing and it said "Yoko" where it was supposed to proclaim "Ellie is 1." (That took less time than writing "Happy Birthday.") Yoko may be a Japanese tourist not versed in the etiquette of rock writing, such as not taking apart someone else's still-legible message to write your own. We set things right, however.

A local friend told me that I need to pile up some black rocks on either side of my rock writing, and that makes it "kapu" to mess with it. If that works, then I can just go out each year and change the number. I even spray-painted some coral and made a plumeria and a heart. Only the best for Miss Ellie!

When Becky told me she wanted to come to Hawaii and celebrate Ellie's first birthday Hawaiian style, I asked a friend at church, knowing the no-expense-spared way the locals put on a luau, if I might be able to get away with a luau-light. She came alive and informed me I could not host "one junk Haole luau" for baby Ellie. With that in mind, I set out to do the best I could to come through with the local dishes and not to send my friends away hungry. In earlier times, it used to be quite an achievement to keep a baby alive until a first birthday, so the first birthday was celebrated in a big way. The tradition has continued.
When I first moved here and was handed an invitation to a baby's first birthday party by the wife of a member of the stake presidency, I thought they must want to get to know us and was very flattered to be invited to what I thought was probably an intimate family gathering. I have attended a number of baby luau's since then and I know better now.
So I have been planning this mega-party for the better part of a year, collecting pictures for a slide show of Ellie's first year, planning the menu, coming up with a theme. In preparing food this week, I broke one of my cardinal rules of cooking which is not to try and fix ethnic food for people of that ethnicity. My first attempt at Haupia (coconut pudding) was a dismal failure. It looked good, but I had overcooked it waiting for it to thicken, and the burnt taste permeated the entire four-pan batch. Undaunted, I made another smaller batch, this time pouring it into the pan at the first sign that it was starting to thicken. I then asked my aforementioned friend to sample it and let me know if it was worthy of being served. I told her it was "Haole-pia." That batch passed. Encouraged, I moved on to the mochi.

My mochi appeared to look the way I thought mochi was supposed to look, but when I tried to cut it, it was sticky and didn't resemble any mochi I had ever eaten, although it tasted okay. Discouraged, I put it out for the geckos, only to discover later that the problem was that I cut it with the wrong kind of knife and missed the step of rolling each piece in potato starch. It is always good to try new recipes out before the actual party, but where's the adventure in that?
We nailed the bread pudding, so that should have bolstered my ego, but Becky made that, and my only contribution was ripping the bread into little pieces. People were raving over it, but nobody mentioned the uniformity in size of the little pieces of bread and how evenly pieces with crust were interspersed with non-crust pieces. Still, it counted as another victory.
I had professional help with the laulaus and the kalua pig. (It is always good when attempting to entertain the masses to have at least one friend who owns a restaurant.) Many friends brought side dishes, and not only did people not go away hungry, they went away with some of the leftovers. The important part is that friends and family gathered to celebrate this beautiful little girl's first year of life. That and now nobody can accuse me of being "a pig short of a luau."

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Extending Extended Family

As a young woman growing up in Salt Lake City, behind the Zion curtain, I always planned on having one husband and several children. It never ocurred to me that it might be the other way around. I've had one husband die, one marriage die, and one husband live to tell about it.

One day years ago stepson Christopher stayed home from school sick. Not sure how "sick" he really was, I told him he was missing history class and made him watch Gone With the Wind with me. That was when it hit me: I'd been married as many times as Scarlett O'Hara.

Although inheriting Thom's five children has given me the large family I always wanted to have, I only gave birth to one child. To provide Scott with close sibling-like relationships, my nieces and nephews became an important part of our lives. For that matter, prior to that, before I married, my older brother's two daughters were my substitute children, and once I married, I still continued to maintain close relationships with them and any new nieces or nephews that came along.

Jessica and Alisa were such adorable little girls. I have so many memories of funny and cute things they did. I remember the time Jessica emptied an entire huge bag of Puffed Rice in the living room, waving the bag and laughing hysterically as the cereal blanketed the floor. (It is amazing how much damage a little one can do in the few short seconds it takes for a parent to get to them from across the room .) I used to carry a bottle of bubble blowing solution in my purse, a cheap way to entertain the kiddos. One Sunday as I sat in church holding little Alisa, she reached into my purse. "Bubbles, Aunt Susan," she pleaded. Shaking my head, I couldn't help but giggle inwardly as I imagined bubbles wafting Lawrence-Welk-like* through the chapel during the meeting.

Jessica has always kept copies of my poems and writings, and she had a copy of a poem I wrote called Jumper Cables, about giving people a jump when they are down. I still have somewhere a pair of cardboard and fabric "heart-to-heart jumper cables" Jessica and Alisa made for me when I found myself once again a single parent at the age of 40. Jessica is now the mother of four and teaches parenting classes and has always been one of the most organized people I know. Alisa has a baby boy. A couple of years ago she and her husband, Glenn, came over to our island for a visit, and we had a fun couple of days together.

When my sister-in-law, Sherstin, was expecting the twins, I picked up preschoolers Evan and Sterling every day after school for several weeks so that she could stay down. It was on one of those visits that we decided to make cookies. I had taught my son Scott how to crack an egg against the counter and then hand it to me to break and put into the cookie batter. I asked Evan if he knew how to crack an egg. Smiling proudly, he said he did. Then he took the egg and smashed it down on the countertop. Then, unsure that was what I had in mind, he looked at me warily, waiting to see if I was going to yell at him for making a mess, perhaps. So I picked out the shells and scraped the remainder of the egg into the batter. Good memories! Now Evan is one the verge of becoming a lawyer, and has a beautiful little family.

Sterling, who was about three when I moved to Florida, just added a little girl, Maylee, to his family--a baby sister for adorable Graham. I have a memory of Sterling eating a bowl of ice cream, and one of his twin sisters asking for a bite and Sterling saying "It's all gone" before taking another bite. Somewhere around here I think we've got that on video.

Even though I moved away just after my niece Lindsay was born, I told myself I would find a way to stay close to my nieces and nephews despite the distance. Lindsay is a newlywed. When she was in elementary school, she used to send me copies of little stories she had written. Now she has a journalism degree and when I need someone to understand why I don't like a certain book, I know I can count on her to understand.

One of the things I have done is bring each of them over for a visit when they graduate high school. I hosted Jessica, Evan and Alisa in Florida and had memorable visits to Disney World with them. Sabrina and Elaina, the twins, came over to Hawaii, and we had many adventures. I remember them on their cell phones telling friends back in cold Idaho that they were watching a movie on the beach at Waikiki. And I especially remember the one where the two experienced kayakers, myself and stepson Rob, tanked while trying to show them how it was done. Now Sabrina is a new mother and Elaina is expecting, which means all those good lines I came up with for her to feed to those enquiring after her reproductive status will now go unused. Dang!

Lindsay and Randall have both been over for a visit, as well. I just got back from attending Randall's wedding. I still remember the first time I met him, a little blond guy hanging out the window of the truck at Bear Lake. Every time I would try to get him to say me name, he would say "tractor," just to tease me. So I became "Aunt Tractor." Lauren is next on the docket for a trip, arriving this coming week. I've watched her go from a shy child afraid to give a talk in Primary to a confident young woman and runner up in the local Junior Miss pageant. We've got a couple of more years before Reggie graduates, and I'm looking forward to getting know my youngest nephew better. The only one I missed was Sterling, because we couldn't quite match up schedules and then he went on a mission and got married. Maybe someday, Sterling, we'll get you over here.

I am grateful for all the ways these extended-children of mine have blessed my life. I am grateful to my brothers and sisters-in-law for raising such awesome kids, each of whom have been a bright spot in my life.

*ask your grandparents

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hooey Ho

Greetings fellow earthlings,

Okay, any of you out there with any knowledge of the Hawaiian language know that it is "hui ho," and "Aloha hui ho" means, loosely translated, "God be with you." That's my favorite translation anyway. More on that later. I chose that title today because I'm not sure my stream-of-consciousness writing will end up to be anything besides a bunch of hooey. As for the "ho" part, that is "ho" as in "westward ho." In other words, hooey that just keeps on coming.

Until now I have resisted becoming a blogger. I don't climb on bandwagons. My parents never had to say "if everyone else jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?" I fear this contrariness was passed on to my son. I once apologized to him for raising him in the less-than-wonderful environment of south Florida.

"Mom, if we had stayed in Utah, I probably would have had to stand out by being rebellious against the Church. In Florida I could stand out by being religious."

Go figure. I did something right, by accident but right nevertheless.

Anyway, I am probably the only one on the planet who still hasn't read any Harry Potter books. It isn't because I don't think they will be good, it is just that I don't read what everyone else is reading just because they're reading it. I wait for the excitement to die down, see if whatever it is has any staying power, an indication that it wasn't all hype, and then I pick it up, usually cheaper. If not cheaper, at least without having to pitch a tent outside Borders. You see, I don't need someone in Paris to tell me that sage is a hot color, because I already like green. If something is good, it will stand the test of time--books, relationships, granite countertops. Therefore, I am usually reading a little behind the pack, and my recently-redocorated bathroom is done in coral, gold and teal, simply because I like those colors.

But I digress. (That would have been a good name for my blog, too, come to think of it.) So because of the above-related tendencies, I have resisted having a blog because of "blog overkill." My assessment is that there used to just be a few bloggers, and people had time to read their blogs, but now everyone and their dog is busy blogging and no one has time to read the blogs. Hey, another great name--the "Everyone and Their Dog Blog." That might be false advertising, though, because sooner or later readers would figure out that it was just me, and I'm not sure my dog would truly have anything meaningful to say. (He's more into the visual arts.) Anyway, I did recently note that even though I am short on time there are a few bloggers that I follow, perhaps not religiously (although come to think of it, I go to their websites about as often as I go to church), because I know they always either make me laugh, brighten my day or lift my spirits. So I am going to blog, in hopes that I can do the same for someone.

I also cannot discount what it means to an author for people to know who they are. In case you missed the campout at Borders waiting for one of my books, there wasn't one. My first book came out on September 11, 2001. Need I say more? (My conspiracy theory involves Anita Stansfield in cahoots with Osama Bin Laden and remains unproven at present.) The release of my next two books roughly coincided with my husband's two back surgeries and promotion of books took a backseat to keeping my husband alive. Book four in the series, entitled "Are We There Yet?" came out quietly in 2004 at the same time as another LDS author released a book by the same name. Anyone who did go in search of my book, probably ended up with his. (Again, I suspect Anita could be involved. Please, if you know her, do not compromise my ongoing investigation by tipping her off.)

I have learned many things from my quadruplets, such as that you are not supposed to let a character talk for three pages without taking a breath, POV is not supposed to resemble a ping-pong game, and if you are going to include a current event in your book, it shouldn't be in the work that it takes you two decades to finish, although I don't see why it can't just morph into the "historical fiction" category. First books are like first children, you make all the mistakes on them, but you love them because they endured your learning curve. I still have much to learn about writing, even more about marketing and promotion. Still, all things considered, I managed to create characters people care about and because of the lack of publicity, I know that the people who buy my books, buy them on purpose. I know you're out there somewhere, my stealth fans. Thank you!

I am also hindered in my self-promotion by the fact that I live out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the Big Island of Hawaii. (If I hold this shell to my ear, I can almost hear the cries of pity all the way out here.) It is with pangs of envy and longing that I read the posts from fellow authors about their book signings and events. On this last unplanned quick trip to the mainland for a funeral, I sold a book to the lady who runs the Crown Room for Delta, and offered to send a freebie of Are We There Yet? to the grandparents of triplets that I met in the Salt Lake airport. Perhaps as payment the mother of said triplets can write me a heartfelt thank-you note and let me know whether I put Beverly through the paces realistically with her triplets, as I'm sure she has lots of time on her hands. Anyway, the point I was attempting to make, quite a while back, is that I realized that I need to blog, because people need to know who I am, and also, if anyone can make it through this, they might actually want to know what Beverly has to say on pages 45-62.

So more about the "hooey." "Hui ho" actually has great meaning for me. My dear departed first husband, Paul Corpany, coming or going, used to always say "hui ho." I never knew what it meant. He told me it was a Hawaiian greeting he picked up from his brother, David, who served his mission in Hawaii. I never researched what it meant. It wasn't something you heard anybody say in Salt Lake City, which is where I lived at the time. About a year after he died, I took a trip that qualified me to purchase a round-trip airfare to Hawaii for $100.00. (I never told the relatives I flew to visit that I really did so in order to qualify for the cheap trip to Hawaii.) I couldn't find anyone who could afford to go with me, because they didn't have the special fare. In need of a break from being the sole parent, I left my two-year-old son with my aunt and uncle and cousins, knowing he would be in good hands, and set off for some rest and rejuvenation in Hawaii. As I was preparing to disembark, the flight attendant came over the loudspeaker and said, "Aloha hui ho." Tears sprang to my eyes. It was Paul sending a message to me. I realized then that I had no idea what "hui ho" even meant. I figured it was Hawaiian for "how's it going?" I waited and let everyone else funnel out of the plane ahead of me. Trying not to let my emotions show, I asked the flight attendant if she could tell me what "hui ho" meant.

"Aloha hui ho" means "God be with you," she informed me. I've heard other translations of it since then, but that was what that flight attendant said to me that day. I wonder sometimes if Paul had a hand in my moving to Hawaii, so I would hear "hui ho" all the time, since he was no longer around to say it to me.

So to my readers, whether of my books, my Meridian column, or now my blog, I say "aloha hui ho." If you got this far, I thank you for your time. Ya'll come back now.


(Am I supposed to sign my name? Did I do it wrong? Maybe it is like my mother when she says "love, Mom" at the end of her message on my voicemail, like she's writing a letter or like I have forgotten what her voice sounds like. Oh, I hope I didn't do it wrong!)